(Reuters) - The Detroit Tigers beat the Oakland Athletics 3-1 at home on Saturday to win the opening game of their best-of-five American League Division series.
Detroit catcher Alex Avila hit Detroit’s only home run of the game, a 398-feet solo homer to left field in the fifth inning, to give the Tigers a two-run cushion after they had trailed 1-0 early.
Ace pitcher Justin Verlander gave up a run in the first inning when Coco Crisp blasted a 347-feet homer to right field but he quickly settled down and took control.
Verlander gave up just three hits in seven innings and made 11 strikeouts to claim the win.
“As the game went on, I got better and better and started finding the zone a little bit more,” Verlander said.
“Not just finding the zone but quality strikes and was able to execute and get some guys out.”
The Tigers tied the game in the bottom of the first when centre fielder Austin Jackson got home from third after triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera grounded a double play with another runner on first.
Detroit then took the lead in the third inning when Omar Infante scored from third after starting pitcher Jarrod Parker was unable to field Quintin Berry’s grounder.
“That was a key play,” said Oakland manager Bob Melvin.
“I think he did the right thing. He just bobbled it, juggled it a little bit on the way to the base. If he fields it cleanly and keeps going, he gets the out, but he pitched well.”
The teams will remain in Detroit for game two on Sunday before heading to California to complete the series.
“The common denominator is you’ve got to win three games somehow,” said Detroit manager Jim Leyland.
“So it’s pretty simple, really. We’ve got to win two more and they’ve got to win three. So it is what it is.”
Reporting by Julian Linden in New York; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes